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Stroke timing

crew rowing synchrony

When a crew finds a common understanding of rowing technique they reach a whole new level of efficency and flow. Even swing. This blog is about  synchrony in crew rowing, and how to measure it. 

Stroke rate

The first step towards synchronous crew rowing is, of course, reaching a common stroke rate :-).  The stroke rate, i.e., the number of strokes per minute,  is easy enough to understand, since it is simply a mere number.

Normally rowers aim to reach the same stroke rate by catching at the same time. In other words they try to place the blades into the water at the same time.

But what happens after the blade is in the water? Do the rowers move in synchrony also after the catch? And does it matter? Yes, it does. 

When a crew is able to have a common understanding of all the parts of the full stroke (not only the catch but also the drive and recovery) they will move as one. And the rowers will feel it as a surge in the boat speed.

Let's call the degree of  synchrony throughout the stroke "Stroke timing" .  Read on for more on this, and how to measure it.

Stroke timing

Unlike stroke rate this is not just a number. Stroke timing allows looking at the degree of synchrony in all phases of the stroke cycle: Simultaneous catch. Equal leg-, trunk- and arm-drives. Same amount of time at backstop. Identical recoveries...

How do you measure stroke timing?

The degree of synchrony of the stroke timing can be indirectly measured through the motion of the seat: F

Attach a Quiske pod to each of the seats and phones running the Quiske App somewhere where each of the rowers can also benefit from the realtime feedback. Have the rowers measure some rowing pieces at increasing effort (so you can see whether there is more or less synchrony at different levels of intensity).

When finished upload the data to the portal.  Overlay the data of each of the rowers to compare the seat speed during the entire stroke cycle. It is then easy to see small differences in timing, which helps the coach plan corrective measures.

The below video shows the average seat speed over the duration of an average stroke of each of four rowers in a quad visualized together with video footage of the crew. Note that this kind of video visualization is not available via Quiske, but the visualization was put together using video footage and Quiske measurements by Char Lot in Denmark (thank you Lotte!).

If there are differences in the seat-timing, it means that the rowers are rowing with different technique, and that the different phases within a stroke are out of sync. Finding differences in seat timing, such as the ones visible above, teaches each of the rowers what to focus, in order to reach a higher degree of synchrony in the stroke timing during the outings to come.

For example: The seat-speed of a rower whose back opens too early slows down earlier, and there is less time of the seat being stationary at back-stop. 

Conclusion: Synchronizing the seat motion within a crew is a simple way to improve synchrony within a crew boat . The phases of the seats should be the same: the seat motion should start and stop at the same time, and the seats should remain at backstop for the same duration. Once

Example: Seat timing in a double

The below shows a Quiske measurement of the seat speeds of two rowers in a mixed double. Pena has stronger legs and is able to reach higher seat speed, and maintain that speed throughout the leg drive. Pena also has slightly longer legs which is why he needs to cover a slighly longer distance with his seat both during the drive and recovery. The timing in this crew is excellent, with both rowers starting and stopping the seat at (almost) the same time, and keeping the seat stationary at backstop for the same duration too.

It is one thing to measure stroke timing to assess rowing synchrony. Another question is how to improve it, once you have the measurement?

Improving stroke timing on the erg

It's not always possible to train on water and it therefore makes sense to work on technique indoors. It is easy to synchronize stroke timing on the erg by rowing side by side.

It is also beneficial to shoot video from the side and to measure the technique of all members using Quiske. Note, that it is useful to ensure stroke timing at different rates too, to make sure of a common understanding of rowing technique also at higher stroke rates. 

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